In the midst of a long statement to tout the passage of Republicans’ massive tax cut bill, President Donald Trump let slip something else he said he had been keeping to himself and trying to keep quiet.
Turns out Trump thinks the tax bill also repeals Obamacare. It didn’t, although the bill does chip away at one of the Affordable Care Act’s foundations.
Here’s what Trump told reporters before a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Wednesday morning.
“The individual mandate is being repealed. When the individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is repealed. Because they get their money from the individual mandate. So the individual mandate is being repealed. So in this bill, not only do we have massive tax cuts and tax reform, we have essentially repealed Obamacare and will come up with something that will be much better, whether it’s block grants or whether it’s taking what we have and doing something terrific. But Obamacare has been repealed in this bill. We didn’t want to bring it up. I told people specifically ‘be quiet with the fake news media because I don’t want them talking too much about it. Because I didn’t know how people would – but now that it’s approved, I can say the individual mandate on health care, where you had to pay not to have insurance, okay, think of that one. You pay not to have insurance. The individual mandate has been repealed.”
First take in the fact that Trump thinks (and is proud of!) the flawed idea that the tax bill sneakily repealed what Republicans were unable to do directly.
He thinks he was able to slip it into the bill by not talking about it. And he’s proud of the idea — which is incorrect — that he tricked everyone.
Let’s examine each part of what he said.
“The individual mandate is being repealed.”
This first sentence is sort of true. While no part of the law has been repealed — Republicans tried and failed, repeatedly, to “repeal” the law — they did zero out the tax, or fine, levied against people who do not secure health insurance under the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.
What will happen as a result? CNN’s Tami Luhby recently wrote: “The Congressional Budget Office predicts that four million fewer people would be covered in the first year the repeal would take effect. That number would rise to 13 million by 2027, as compared to current law. Meanwhile, premiums would rise by about 10% in most years of the decade.”
Senate Republicans, by the way, zeroed out the penalty as a way to help pay for the massive tax cut bill. That particular provision raised more than $380 billion, according to the CBO, but it didn’t keep the tax bill from adding $1.5 trillion to deficits.
“When the individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is repealed. Because they get their money from the individual mandate. So the individual mandate is being repealed.”
Again, it’s inaccurate to say anything has been “repealed.” Americans are still technically required to have insurance, they just won’t face a fine. That might seem like splitting hairs, but Trump is claiming something here — repeal — when in fact he’s working to starve the law. The rest of the law, meantime, remains intact, although Trump has engaged in other efforts to chip away at it, like cutting insurance companies off cost-sharing subsidies, even if they seem likely to throw the individual insurance market into disarray. The subsidies, like mandate, still exist. But Trump just stopped paying them because he says they’re illegal. The bigger thing here is the word “Obamacare.” It clearly gets under his skin. After the most controversial of his moves — ending government reimbursements to insurers to reduce health care costs for low-income people — he declared in October, “Obamacare is finished. It’s over. It’s gone.”
“So in this bill, not only do we have massive tax cuts and tax reform, we have essentially repealed Obamacare and will come up with something that will be much better, whether it’s block grants or whether it’s taking what we have and doing something terrific.”
Republican Sen. Susan Collins voted for the tax cut bill in exchange for a promise that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would schedule a vote on a bipartisan plan, first sponsored by Sens. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, and Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, to replace some of the insurance payments Trump had ended. She then voted for the bill. But there’s no Republican support for the plan in the House. So the vote Collins was promised likely won’t happen as part of a stop-gap government spending bill, but, perhaps, next year. Other Obamacare fixes have yet to materialize.
“But Obamacare has been repealed in this bill.”
See above. Elements of the Affordable Care Act Republicans haven’t been able to touch include protections for those with pre-existing conditions, the requirement that insurers provide comprehensive coverage, subsidies to reduce premiums of low- and moderate-income consumers and the expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults
“We didn’t want to bring it up. I told people specifically ‘be quiet with the fake news media because I don’t want them talking too much about it.”
This is Trump seeming to take credit for repealing the law without people understanding what he was doing. Please read this story from CNN Money from December 15, which has the headline, “Will Obamacare survive the tax bill?” Or from November: “Individual mandate repeal to be included in Senate’s tax bill.”